Vicky Tuttle knows her disabled brother and sister are getting good care at their Lawrence home.
Tuttle herself is the one providing that care under a program through the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
“I do have good family backup,” Tuttle said of other relatives who sometimes assist her.
As of Dec. 1, however, SRS stopped taking applications for the program known as the home and community-based disability waiver. The program provides personal care attendant services so low-income people with disabilities can stay at home, rather than move into a nursing home.
The freeze was instituted because an unexpected increase in enrollment in the program caused a $10 million cost overrun, according to SRS officials. The freeze is in place until at least July 1 when it will be reviewed.
Currently, 7,316 people participate in the waiver program, and SRS wants to get that down to 5,500. Therefore no one will be allowed into the program even when someone else drops out.
The decision by Don Jordan, SRS secretary, has been met with considerable statewide protest by people with disabilities and advocacy organizations. Last week protesters carrying signs conducted a sit-in in the Pittsburg SRS office.
On Wednesday, Tuttle and a few representatives of Independence Inc., a Lawrence advocacy organization, spent an hour passing out fliers and other information about the SRS freeze to people coming and going at the local SRS office, 1901 Del. The frigid weather prevented people with disabilities from joining that effort, and it was not meant to be a raucous affair, said Bob Mikesic, advocacy coordinator at Independence Inc.
“It’s not a decision made by the local offices,” Mikesic said.
But Mikesic thinks the SRS freeze is a mistake and will force more people with disabilities into nursing homes. People who are eligible for the physical disability waiver also are eligible for Medicaid nursing home placement. The average annual cost of care in a nursing home is $33,972 while someone receiving care at home in the SRS program is $16,815.
“I just don’t see how this can be justified,” Mikesic said of the program freeze.
Some people with disabilities may refuse to go to a nursing home even if they don’t have someone to assist them in their own homes, Mikesic said. Therefore, their care will suffer, Mikesic said.
Recently, eight people in Douglas County applied for the disability waiver program through Independence Inc., and two were eligible. About 60 people receiving Independence Inc. complementary services are in the program. There also are other organizations providing services to people with disabilities in Douglas County. In 2008, the total served by the disability waiver program was 154, according to SRS statistics.